Background: As veterinary medicine has become more sophisticated, with greater numbers of veterinary patients receiving intensive care, more patients with an acute respiratory distress (ARDS)-like syndrome have been recognized.
Methods: A consensus definition meeting was held for the purpose of developing veterinary-specific definitions for acute lung injury (ALI) and ARDS.
Results/conclusions: Three clinically based definitions for acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress-like syndromes occurring in veterinary patients were described. Neonatal equine respiratory distress syndrome (NERDS) was defined separately due to the specific requirement for primary developmental surfactant dysfunction and lack of an inflammatory component. Five diagnostic criteria categories were established for Veterinary ALI/ARDS (Vet ALI/ARDS) with 4 required and a fifth highly recommended criteria. A strong consensus was reached that onset of respiratory distress must have been acute and that known risk factors must be present. Additional criteria included evidence of pulmonary capillary leak with no evidence of increased pulmonary capillary pressure, evidence of inefficient gas exchange and, finally, evidence of inflammation. Some features of ALI/ARDS in the neonatal horse were recognized as unique, therefore, equine neonatal ALI/ARDS (EqNALI/EqNARDS) was similarly defined but with a graded gas exchange inefficiency table to allow for normal developmental changes in gas exchange. Use of these definitions in planning prospective studies of these problems in veterinary patients should allow for more direct comparisons of studies and clinical trials, with a larger goal of improving outcome in veterinary patients.